BOOKNESS speaks to Paul Johnson

In the first episode of the second series of BOOKNESS, the Bodleian team speaks to book artist Paul Johnson about his work Dies Natalis.

Listen to the episode here.

If you take a conventional book… the pages don’t change… but when you come to pop-up engineering… it’s rather like being in a theatre… there are all these different changing viewpoints with the book which is quite unique

Paul’s pop-up gift to the Bodleian, ‘Dies Natalis’, which is on display in the Gifts & Books exhibition until 29th October 2023.

A book is designed to be held… if we think of a book as being  conceptually a form of art… I can’t think of any other art form that only really functions when you hold it directly in your hands and your fingers interact with the object

‘Dies Natalis’ opened showing both covers, the spine, and the pages opening up beyond.

And some conservation in action! Paul visited us back in May 2023 to work with our conservation team on some of his other books we have in the Bodleian’s collection, to assess their condition and carry out a few minor repairs.

Paul Johnson in the Bodleian conservation studio making repairs to his work ‘Serenade to Chaucer’ (Rec. a.45).

My books have thousands of individual little parts, and the risk is that one or two of them are going to fall off in transit… and this is always a problem, little pieces coming loose… when we first talked about bits probably falling off, I probably said to you stick it back on anywhere you like!

Paul Johnson and Bodleian conservator Alice Evans discussing the condition of his book ‘From Babylon to Ithaca’ (Rec. a.80).

Useful links and glossary checks in this episode:

  • Listen to the episode on the University of Oxford Podcasts website here (also available via Spotify and Apple Podcasts)
  • Find out more about Paul’s work here
  • Visit the Gifts & Books exhibition at the Bodleian’s Weston Library in Oxford until 29th October 2023